New Paths has always enjoyed wonderful support from our local community in Beverley and the East Riding, but it also has a loyal fanbase across other parts of the UK (and beyond). Our 2024 London reception was a chance to connect with some of these people – to thank our existing festivalgoers and donors in the south east, to celebrate with those who’ve helped us get to where we are – and also to introduce New Paths to new people, hoping to entice them to the East Riding to experience the magic of our festivals for themselves.

Three popular New Paths performers – soprano Aoife Miskelly, saxophonist Christian Forshaw and cellist Leo Popplewell – joined Artistic Director Libby Burgess at the piano, for a programme featuring music by Lili Boulanger, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, André Previn, Robert Schumann, Béla Bartók, Sergei Rachmaninoff and more. A particularly moving moment was Christian’s performance of his own piece, Wanderer, written in memory of a friend who died last year, and whose birthday would have been today.

Founder and Chairman Roland Deller introduced the evening saying that:

Six years ago to the day I was standing in this very hall telling those assembled about a new musical charity called New Paths. At that point our fledgling organisation had presented its first two festivals in Beverley, and had ambitious plans for the future. A further nine festivals on and having welcomed over 25,000 people to our events, and given ten world premieres, it is so good to be back in this spot with old friends and new, to thank everyone who has helped us reach this point – musicians, audience, volunteers and donors – and to tell those of you who aren’t familiar with it a little about one of the best towns in this country.

He painted a picture of a typical New Paths festival – exciting music-making, top-notch musicians, creative programming, events crammed in from dawn til dusk, across venues ranging from the great medieval churches to the barges on the Beck – and sold the charms of the town of Beverley, from its architectural splendours to its range of excellent (and well-priced) beer!

He quoted the MP Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016:

She said that “there is more that unites us than divides us”. The thing about music is that it brings people together. It is a leveller. Music expresses something deep within our humanity. And the shared experience of live music connects people from all walks of life. As Sir Simon Rattle says, “music is an elite artform, but it is never elitist”. And so, half of all our events have been completely free and we always offer low-cost tickets to our concerts. Our free events include popular concerts for babies and toddlers in which all of our artists perform: these are attended by children and families from the most deprived part of the town and bring a lot of joy.

Libby commented on the enormous breadth of music programmed in New Paths festivals, including a great deal of music rarely performed elsewhere, and celebrated the fact that creativity has always been front and centre.

Everything in life is connected, isn’t it? And so our programmes are often themed, taking inspiration from the place or its history or from international themes or from poetry or painting – the local painter Elwell, or Larkin, the poet, who lived down the road in Hull. We weave together the familiar and the obscure, the formal and the informal, the ancient and the new – challenging our audience to think, and to respond, to imagine, to empathise, to cry, and to cheer – all things that the arts prompt, and which we, as human beings and as a society, need – perhaps now more than ever.

Both Roland and Libby articulated their passionate belief that music is for everyone, that it’s intrinsic to our human experience – reflecting that this informs the range and scope of their programming, and the organisation’s decisions about everything from pricing to concert timings. They both also highlighted New Paths’ commitment to education work, from Inspire! workshops in partnership with the local hub, to its Viking Voyage project with Frederick Holmes School, ‘Freddies’ – a community special school catering for pupils with severe physical and learning disabilities and those with profound and multiple needs.

Roland announced New Paths’ collaboration with the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: this spring’s festival will see the final of their Dame Gillian Weir Messiaen competition taking place on the Minster’s fine organ. And Libby gave sneak previews of the programme content for this spring, shortly to be announced.

Guests were invited to consider whether they could support New Paths financially, joining those who have been the philanthropic beating heart of the organisation from the outset: Libby articulated the need for new major donors, but also commented that ‘every little counts’, speaking warmly of the loyal circle of Friends and Patrons, whose donation levels start at under £5/month.

Roland wrapped up by commenting:

Over in Davos right now some of the world’s most powerful people are grappling with how to rebuild trust in the world – trust in our future, within societies and between nations. We believe that the arts and music are a part of the answer, and we’re proud to be playing our small part in helping people to flourish here in the UK.

And Libby introduced the final piece on the evening’s musical programme, by Robert Schumann, with an explanation of the organisation’s name:

In 1853, a young composer turned up on the doorstep of Robert and Clara Schumann, bearing a letter of recommendation from their mutual friend, the great violinist Joseph Joachim. That young composer was Johannes Brahms, whose music the Schumanns immediately admired – and soon after, Robert Schumann wrote an article describing the ‘neue Bahnen’ of Brahms’ music – the new ways, or ‘new paths’. This phrase has been our inspiration and namesake – the idea that music-making and friendship are inextricably linked; yes, also that women are at the heart of it and always have been (thank you Clara Schumann!); and also that – like Brahms and the Schumanns, who were all deeply inspired by the music of Bach – we are take the best of the old, and find fresh new perspectives on it. We’ve also encouraged a whole new group of people to tread their own literal ‘new paths’ from all corners of the UK (and even beyond!) to Beverley. Please consider helping us in whatever way you can, and please come and join them!